Think local act global
Nicholas “Nick” Stone is a native of Melbourne Australia who moved to New York City in 2010. He is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Bluestone Lane, an Australian-influenced lifestyle and hospitality brand based in New York, NY.
Nick envisioned Bluestone Lane whilst attending Business School in New York, with the idea of providing a premium coffee/cafe experience that is readily found in his former hometown of Melbourne Australia (but not readily available in New York). Since opening its first location in July 2013, Bluestone Lane has become the fastest-growing premium coffee and café having opened 27 stores open now across 6 markets being New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New Jersey and a flagship coffee roastery and production facility within its first 4.5 years of operations.
Nick joined Bluestone Lane as its full-time Chief Executive Officer in June 2016, having spent 10 years as a Corporate Finance Director with ANZ Banking Group Limited and UBS Investment Bank, advising and financing some of the world’s largest multinational corporations in the United States, Europe and in Asia Pacific.
Prior to banking, Nick was a professional Australian Rules Football (AFL) player for 6 seasons, having been selected in the 1999 AFL National Draft from Wesley College, Australia (High School). Nick played for the Collingwood, Hawthorn and the St Kilda Football Clubs.
Bluestone Lane it set to have more than 40 locations by the end of 2018, across 6 United States core-markets, including New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
So lucky to catch Nick on one of his quick trips home to Melbourne..
Nicholas Stone - My story
Nick fulfilled his childhood dream when he was drafted in the Australian Football League out of high school. During his career he strived to maintain a balanced lifestyle, continuing to be involved in music, other sports and chased his passion for learning.
His time in the AFL spanned six years across three clubs, after which he took an internship at UBS – learning the mechanics of investment banking, wealth management and trading. He applied for graduate roles in the banking space with an analytical focus, and was fortunate to be offered a role in ANZ’s newly created ‘Client Insights’ team within the Investment Banking arm.
He quickly moved up the ranks, leveraging off his experiences in the AFL in terms of high performance standards, a high degree of scrutiny and pressure and building his sense of confidence and self-belief. He also felt fortunate to work across leveraged finance to debt advisory to M&A – all under great mentors and bosses.
But despite enjoying such success in Melbourne, he yearned for the ‘bright lights’ of New York as he felt it was the epicentre of art, fashion, media and culture. He attempted to coincide the opportunity with his girlfriend’s – now wife’s – opportunity with a modelling agency in New York but was unsuccessful in his pursuit. He consulted with his mentor who felt it wasn’t worth chancing his arm, and thus he decided to commence an MBA at Melbourne Business School after his Master of Finance – allowing him to continue to immerse himself in financial management and mechanics and to undertake an overseas postgraduate study exchange
The ensuing months were incredibly tough, balancing his role at ANZ with his MBA, as well as playing football and living away from his girlfriend. He managed to secure an exchange, not to his original preference in New York, but rather at Fordham University Graduate School of Business in New York. Whilst he was there he took an Executive Course in Venture Capital, whereby the participants were asked to do a thesis on a business proposal. Ignoring much of his classmates’ fascination with the rise in tech at the time, Nick was drawn to the world of hospitality.
Nicholas Stone - His Idea
He became more and more passionate with the concept and studiously reviewed New York’s coffee culture, which he felt was very transactional, lacked engagement and the offerings felt bland and outdated. This was in comparison to the community feel, pleasing aesthetics and personal elements of Melbourne’s famed coffee scene.
He felt his business didn’t have to be known as a coffee ‘company’ – rather a ‘brand’ focused on developing an emotional and human connection. After completing his MBA he secured a transfer with ANZ in New York, and was one of the youngest directors in the bank with a task with rebuild the corporate finance arm in London and New York. He took a while to get used to the city – and the coffee – and continued to notice the void he felt he could fill.
Despite enjoying his role at ANZ, Nick found the intrinsic rewards, the ability to make a difference, building a brand and seeing the daily incremental gains to be of great appeal. Merely a few years after his venture to New York, after leveraging the ideas and perspective of his network, the Bluestone brand was born.
Nicholas Stone - Building His Brand – Personally and Professionally
- Nick remains relentlessly focused on the customer, feeding off his genuine enthusiasm for making a difference and building a brand.
- He leverages off his analytical insight and studious nature, constantly reviewing and assessing the performance of the business.
- He felt his time objectifying the value proposition, studying the industry, looking at different markets and capturing technology to be key ingredients in his success.
- He is a big believer in empowerment and autonomy of this team to explore their potential.
- In any key strategic decision, for Bluestone we look at three lenses being: Is it good for our local? Is it good for our brand? Is it economically rational?
- He uses Evernote to constantly keep notes and track of his daily interactions and lessons learned.
Nicholas Stone - Key Mentors and Influencers
- The principle of ‘Living Life in Permanent Beta’ by Reid Hoffman to understand that everything is constantly volatile, to get comfortable with craziness and accept that no one owns a good idea as execution is everything
- Warren Buffet for his ability to pragmatically assess decision and investments, the humility by which he carries himself and his belief that no job is to big or too small.
Nicholas Stone - Book Recommendations
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the creator of Nike by Phil Knight
- Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz
- Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
Nicholas Stone - Contacting Nick
Feel free to reach out to Nick on his LinkedIn profile, he also posts his own thoughts and commentary on industry insights and relevant topics.